The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Section A. Equal Opportunity in the Federal Work Force

This year marked the 40th anniversary of the passage and signing into law of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While there has been significant progress since the time of this landmark legislation, there are still many miles to travel on the road to equal employment opportunity. As President Johnson said when he signed the Act into law:

"This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us to go to work in our communities and our states, in our homes and in our hearts to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country."

Now, more than ever before, with increasing expectations of government institutions, federal agencies must position themselves to attract, develop and retain a top-quality work force that can ensure our nation's continued growth, security and prosperity. In order to develop this competitive, highly qualified work force, federal agencies must fully utilize the talents of all, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex or disability. In order to assist agencies in attaining these goals, on October 1, 2003, Management Directive - 715 (MD-715) became effective and set forth policy guidance and standards for establishing and maintaining effective affirmative programs of equal employment opportunity under Section 717 of Title VII and effective affirmative action programs under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The figures and charts which follow indicate that there has been some progress over the past decade. With proper implementation, MD-715 will help agencies uncover and effectively address impediments to fair and open competition in the workplace and allow all individuals equal access to federal employment opportunities.

  1. Composition of Federal Work Force - Hispanics and White Females Remain Below Availability in the Civilian Labor Force

    In FY 2004, the Federal Government had a permanent work force of 2,606,903 individuals compared to 2,857,900 in FY 1995.(2) Table 1 shows the participation rate of the identified groups below, as compared to the civilian labor force (CLF):

    Table 1 - Composition of Federal Work Force - Ten Year Trend: Some Progress, Little Overall Change FY 1995 - FY 2004(3)
    Work Force Participation Rate 2000 CLF
    FY 2004 FY 1995 % FY 2004 % %
    Men 1,488,520 58.47 57.10 53.20
    Women 1,118,383 41.53 42.90 46.80
    Hispanic Males 116,693 3.78 4.48 6.20
    Hispanic Females 77,705 2.33 2.98 4.50
    White Males 1,061,384 43.28 40.71 39.00
    White Females 682,816 26.38 26.19 33.70
    Black Males 203,701 8.05 7.81 4.80
    Black Females 270,243 10.29 10.37 5.80
    Asian American/Pacific Islander Males 86,582 2.67 3.32 2.10
    Asian American/Pacific IslanderFemales 64,238 1.83 2.46 1.90
    American Indian/Alaskan Native Males 20,160 0.68 0.77 0.50
    American Indian/Alaskan Native Females 23,381 0.70 0.90 0.50

    For the first time, this report breaks out the employment data for specific components of certain large federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans' Affairs, as well as certain defense agencies, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the United States Postal Service.

    A comparison of the data on the participation rates of persons in particular agency components can serve as a diagnostic tool to help identify possible areas where barriers to equal opportunity may exist within an agency. This information is located in Table XII of Appendix IV located at

  2. Grade and Pay: Women Show Some Progress
    1. Senior Pay Levels

      EEO Program Tips

      To ensure a discrimination-free work environment, agencies should:

      • Identify possible barriers using a variety of sources
      • Investigate to pinpoint actual barriers and causes
      • Develop plans to address barrier causes
      • Assess success of plan
      • Adjust plan where necessary

      The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 established the Senior Executive Service (SES) as a separate personnel system covering a majority of the top managerial, supervisory, and policy-making positions in the Executive Branch of government. Senior Pay Level (SPL) positions include the SES, Executive Schedule, Senior Foreign Service, and other employees earning salaries above grade 15 in the General Schedule. The SPL represents 1.47% of the total federal General Schedule work force. Table 2 below reflects the SPL representation.

      Table 2 - Senior Pay Level Representation FY 1995 / FY 2004
      Senior Pay Level Postions
      FY 1995 FY 2004
      Number % of SPL Number % of SPL
      Men 11,119 81.54 14,196 74.25
      Women 2,517 18.46 4,921 25.75
      Hispanics 335 2.46 656 3.43
      Whites 12,176 89.29 16,457 86.08
      Blacks 834 6.12 1,243 6.50
      Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders 212 1.55 607 3.17
      American Indians/Alaskan Natives 79 0.58 154 0.80
      Individuals with Targeted Disabilities 59 0.43 84 0.44
      • Between FY 1995 and FY 2004, the representation rate for individuals with targeted disabilities in SPL positions remained essentially unchanged. There was a slight increase in the representation rate for Blacks and Hispanics and a modest increase in the representation rate for American Indians/Alaskan Natives. The representation rate for women increased from 18.46% to 25.74%, while the rate for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders more than doubled, from 1.55% to 3.17%
      • In FY 2004 the "feeder grades" to SPL positions(4) (GS grades 14 and 15), showed that men comprised 68.86%; women comprised 31.14%; Hispanics comprised 3.92%; Whites comprised 80.70%; Blacks comprised 8.95%; Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders comprised 5.48%; American Indians/Alaskan Natives comprised 0.94%, and individuals with targeted disabilities comprised 1.03%.
      • Part II of this report also contains information on the top three major occupations in selected government agencies. These mission-oriented occupations with 100 or more employees frequently serve as gateways into upper management positions. Thus, data on participation rates of persons holding positions in an agency's major occupation can serve as a diagnostic tool to help determine possible areas where barriers to equal opportunity may exist.
      • Among agencies with 500 or more employees, EEOC, Education and the National Science Foundation had the greatest percentage of women in SPL positions, see Table 3 below. SPL data for all agencies is located in Table VII of Appendix IV which can be found at
      Table 3 - Ranking of Agencies with the Highest Percentage of Women in Senior Pay Level Positions (Agencies With 500 Or More Employees)
      Total Women in Senior Pay Level Positions
      Agency or Department Work Force # SPL # # %
      Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2,465 38 18 47.37
      Education, U.S. Department of 4,584 162 66 40.74
      National Science Foundation 1,333 343 125 36.44
      Environmental Protection Agency 18,576 326 115 35.28
      Federal Trade Commission 1,073 40 14 35.00
    2. Hispanics, Women, Blacks, American Indian/Alaskan Natives and People with Disabilities Remain Below the Government-Wide Average Pay Grade
      • The average grade level for the total General Schedule work force (permanent and temporary) was 9.91 in FY 2004. Of General Schedule employees, 33.60% were in grades 1-8, 40.65% were in grades 9-12, and 25.75% were in grades 13-15.
      • In FY 2004, the General Schedule participation rate for Hispanics was 7.44%; for Blacks was 18.06%; for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders was 4.60%; and for American Indians/Alaskan Natives was 2.10%. These participation rates have remained essentially unchanged since FY 2000.(5)

        Figure 1 - Average Grade in the General Schedule*
        FY 2004

        Figure 1 - Average Grade in the General Schedule

        *See note 5, infra.

      • Hispanics (9.20), Blacks (8.87) and American Indians/Alaskan Natives (8.30) had average grade levels lower than the 9.91 government-wide average grade level.
      • Women held 50.61% of all General Schedule federal jobs in FY 2004.
      • Approximately 51.39% of women employed in the federal General Schedule work force were in grades 7-11. The average General Schedule grade for women was 9.10, almost one full grade below the government-wide average of 9.91.
      • The average General Schedule grade level for men was 10.69, nearly 2 grades higher than that for women.
      • The average General Schedule grade level for people with targeted disabilities was 8.35, nearly 2 grades below the government-wide average.
  3. Rate of Decline for People with Targeted Disabilities(6) Remains High

- EEO Program Tips -

All agencies are strongly encouraged to effect steady and measurable progress with respect to the employment and advancement of individuals with disabilities. To increase participation rates of people with targeted disabilities agencies should --

While there is no general availability figure for individuals with disabilities in the workforce, MD-715 recommends that agencies evaluate themselves against both the work force profile of the federal government and the agencies highly ranked in the most recent EEOC Annual Report on the federal work force.

2. Source: Office of Personnel Management's The Fact Book-Federal Civilian Workforce Statistics, 1997 edition.

3. The Asian American/Pacific Islander data throughout this report continues to combine data for Asian Americans with "Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders" and does not include data for "Two or More Races" because separate data was unavailable at the time of publication.

4. Over 80% of career Senior Executive Service (SES) appointments, which comprises the bulk of the SPL, come from the ranks of GS-15s, who in turn are promoted over 90% of the time from the ranks of the GS-14s. An additional small number of GS-14s are promoted directly into the SES. See, General Accountability Office Report No.GAO-03-34, Senior Executive Service: Agency Efforts Needed to Improve Diversity as the Senior Corps Turns Over (January 2003).

5. Unlike Table 1 which reports the total workforce, this Figure represents only the work force in General Schedule positions. OPM classifies General Schedule positions as those positions whose primary duty requires knowledge or experience of an administrative, clerical, scientific, artistic, or technical nature not related to the Federal Wage System positions which refer to those positions whose primary duty involves the performance of physical work which requires knowledge or experience of a trade, craft, or manual-labor work.

6. Defined in Appendix I.

This page was last modified on April 19, 2005.

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